This was taught as part of the Introduction to the Old Testament class at Yale.
Many scholars have argued that the Biblical accounts in Genesis arose from similar stories from other Ancient Near East (ANE) religions. Cuneiform tablets discovered in Mesopotamia dated more than a thousand years before recovered Biblical texts have stories of Ziusudra, or in some versions Utnapishtim who survives a great flood by building an ark on the instruction of a deity, the flood destroys all life, and he sends out birds to scout out the dry land, and so on. So with parallels like these, it was argued that the religion of the Israelites was not so different from the religions of their polytheistic or pagan neighbors. They also had a creation story, they had a flood story, they did animal sacrifices and they observed purity taboos. The Bible simply documented another ANE religion and they differed from their neighbors only over the number of gods they worshiped: one or many.
One scholar, Yehezkel Kaufmann, argued that there was a radical break between the Bible and other ANE religions, and that the Bible could not have arisen from these ancient texts. He pointed out that the religions were distinctly different at their cores when describe the nature and the character of God.
In all polytheistic religions, the gods are governed by a metadivine realm. The gods have their own myths about how they came into existence (born or created), they have a life span and they die. Individual gods exhibit both good and bad characteristics. There is no notion of a supreme or divine will. The worship of gods is tied into the worship of nature. Power is materially conceived through the metadivine realm. Magic is possible, and it is through magic that humans can also tap into the metadivine realm. By tapping into the metadivine realm, human can obtain power, even to the point of having some control over the gods. Evil is a metaphysical reality and salvation may be obtained from magic or gnosticism.
The God of the Bible is extremely different. God transcends nature, He is ageless, timeless and is not governed by a metadivine realm. God is only good. Evil comes from a clash of humans and God, it is demystified. There is a supreme law, the Will of God. God’s nature is revealed more through historical events and interaction with man than from nature.
Therefore, this radical break on the very nature of God is evidence that these key concepts of God could not have come from any ANE religion.